Does religion do more harm than good?

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Does religion do more harm than good? It is a general question spanning various religions, not just e.g. only Christianity or only Abrahamic religions.

The question needs some kind of aggregation of the harm and the good, making it challenging. To support an itemization of the debate, the debaters are allowed to post single items of harm and good, and the aggregation is left for the reader to do.

Search terms: arguments against religion.

Religion does more harm than good[edit | edit source]

Pro[edit | edit source]

  • Argument for Religion leads to religious wars.
    • Objection Most religious books do not advocate for bloodshed in the name of a higher power
  • Argument for Religion stifles scientific progress by (a) outright prohibiting some theories and (b) stifling curiosity by providing pseudo-answers and the principle that belief in them without evidence or questioning is a virtue.
    • Objection The stifling of scientific progress is overstated. Religions provided monks who did the clerical record keeping services from which science benefited. It provided universities as places of learning.
    • Objection Could a strong belief in technological progress not be considered a religious practice in itself?
    • Objection Many scientists were religious: in them, religion did not stifle curiosity.
    • Objection While nominally, religion rests on faith, e.g. Christianity produced a lot of theology, investigating abstract arguments for existence of God. That would not happen if it stifled all curiosity and made everyone satisfied with faith.
  • Argument for Religion leads to violence even without wars, e.g. pogroms.
  • Argument for Religion all too often stifles moral progress by its moral conservatism, whereas moral philosophy develops by investigation of new arguments and ideas.
    • Objection Not all religion is morally conservative. For instance, Christian Protestantism presented a development of Christianity, leading to changes in practice.
  • Argument for Reliance on prayer delays meaningful intervention to address problems.
  • Argument for Many religions treat women unfairly.
  • Argument for Many religions treat homosexuals unfairly.
  • Argument for Religions slow down improving the conditions in the world for humans by providing hope for infinitely long better afterlife.
    • Objection Significant technological progress was achieved during Middle Ages in Europe. The prevention of technological progress is overstated. Technological progress continues in the U.S. despite its being largely religious.
    • Objection One theory states that the spirit of Protestantism contributed to capitalist work ethic. This particular branch of religion thus contributed to what many cherish.
      • Objection That is a double-edged sword: the dying species are not amused.
  • Argument for Religion may be dangerous for the biosphere since the faith in God makes the believers trust all problems can be overcome if God wills it.
  • Argument for Some religions are against contraception, contributing to population growth that leads to destruction of "God's creation".
  • Argument for By religious texts containing obvious contradictions and absurdities, they create the habit and expectation of intellectual dishonesty.

Con[edit | edit source]

  • Argument against Religion promotes civil non-transgression and appreciation of human life as sacred.
    • Objection Modern secular societies do not show high rates of transgression despite lack of faith. It is the Christian United States that has a high homicide rate, and so does Orthodox Russia.
      • Objection This needs a careful investigation of correlations and causes. The above is anecdotal.
  • Argument against Religion promotes charity.
    • Objection Modern secular societies show that charity, schools and hospitals can be funded without religion, by social democratic policies of the state and by secular charitable organizations.
  • Argument against Historically, it was organized religion that brought schools, hospitals and orphanages.
    • Objection Fair enough. However, in modern times, the same or better services are provided by the social democratic state without the need to tell untruth to children and without the need to teach them that they should not think and should accept claims without proof or evidence. The mathematics teaching in particular teaches children how to prove things.
  • Argument against Religion provides places of refuge for childless people.
    • Objection Several religions actively discriminate against those who don't or cannot have children
  • Argument against Religion provides life with meaning.
    • Objection People in secular societies find meaning without faith.
  • Argument against Religion stops endless deliberative processes of the mind by replacing them with belief and ready-made answers.
    • Objection That's a good point and it probably helps some people. However, atheists do not seem to suffer from widespread psychological difficulties resulting from interminable mental processes.
  • Argument against Religion provides an analog of psychotherapy by confession.
    • Objection People in secular societies have access to psychotherapy.
  • Argument against Religion provides some basic code (text) to go by.
    • Objection Instead of relying on religious texts inciting to violence, people in modern secular societies have access to texts stating principles of morality, developed by centuries of philosophy.
      • Objection They have access to all texts, those that expound sound moral principles and those that expound objectionable ones. And they only have their frail human reason to select between them.
        • Objection The believers in Old Testament also have to use their "frail human reason" to resolve the glaring contradictions: on one hand, you ought not murder, on the other hand, you can when so commanded by God. In the end, the believers need to use their conscience. The difference in philosophical texts is that they contain some of the best, and admittedly also some of the worst, that human thought has to offer. The menu is much better for an inquisitive mind to choose from, to consider arguments and counterarguments.
  • Argument against Religion has inspired great art.
  • Argument against Historically, religion codified survival practices that kept adherents alive, such as kosher food practices. For example, modern science now knows that bad pork can be particularly dangerously due to its genetic similarity to humans.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]